Tuesday, June 11, 2019

For Writers: Staying True to You

by Cindy K. Sproles @CindyDevoted

Writing is subjective and this sometimes makes it difficult to know who or what to believe about our writing. For this reason, I think this is the first lesson all new writers need to learn.

This is especially true in critique groups. The ideal critique group would have several levels of writers. New writers, more seasoned writers, and well published writers or mentors. The wonderful thing about being a member of a critique group is that you receive feedback from so many varied levels of writers. But again, let me remind you, writing is subjective, so a writer has to learn to discern through the suggestions that are offered and pick and choose what suits your work best. Those obvious writing basics cannot be dismissed, but the suggestions for how or what others think your work should say. . .are subjective.

When I first began writing, I didn’t understand this. As a member of an online critique group, I received tons of suggestions and made the changes accordingly. Before long, I realized my story had lost its way. Every well-meaning critique partner had their own thoughts as to the direction my story needed to go. 

Unfortunately, a lot of them made sense. I had to learn how to discern through those things that are subjective, finding that, what worked well for one writer, might not work for me. It was frustrating and I didn’t have the privilege of local writing peers to guide me. It took some time, but I finally learned writing was subjective. Once I grasped that, my writing became my own and I was able to pick and choose from the suggestions that came my way. 

Trends in writing can be equally as frustrating. What is hot today, won’t be in a year. I’ve known writers who hopped from genre to genre trying to hit the next up and coming trend, only to miss out by a hair. 

Here’s a personal example. My voice lays in the strong mountain dialect of the Appalachians. When I began to write Appalachian Historical, it wasn’t EVEN on the radar. I continued to write what I loved, despite the fact it wasn’t sellable in the market at the time. I thought I’d try something fun. Mind you, I kept working on the Appalachian pieces, but I tried my hand at a fun-loving story filled with humor. Keep in mind, I was still a new writer, and though I wrote well, my writing wasn’t up to the level it needed to be for publication. 

Once the humorous story Mae in June was complete the trend of chick lit had long passed. It was suggested I rewrite the story into the YA genre. So I did. The story characters were too old. Publishers wanted my 25 year-old protagonist to be in her teens. I rewrote again for another stab at pleasing someone else. It wasn’t long after the rewrite that I received a note that said, this story would make a better middle grade story. Do you see where this is going?

After four rewrites, I’d lost 1) the story and 2) the joy in the story. To this day, Mae in June sits in my file folder as a learning process.

I went back to writing what I knew I was good at – the one place my voice was strong and unique. And though I’ve written articles for eldercare, and devotions, my heart remained true to my strength in the Appalachian voice and stories. It took six years for the writing industry to perk an ear at my stories and in the beginning, their response was, “This is good, but we aren’t sure where we’ll put it.” Until that one publisher did a double take and swung around. “We’ll take a chance on this.” And they did. What happened next was an explosion of readers who suddenly fell in love with the stories of the Appalachian people and their culture.

It’s always wise to learn and practice other types of writing, but it’s also important to remain true to who you are. Patience becomes your best friend as you wait for your work to suddenly be “the one” a publisher steps out in faith on. 

Be wise. Learn the craft and learn it well. Learn to discern what is subjective. The more you master the craft, the better your stories will become and your voice strengthens. But above all else, remain true to what you know you write well. It may take time, but in the long run…it’s well worth the wait. 

For Writers: Staying True to You - @CindyDevoted on @EdieMelson (Click to Tweet)

Thoughts on being wise as a writer from @CindyDevoted on @EdieMelson (Click to Tweet)

Cindy K. Sproles is an author, speaker, and conference teacher. She is the cofounder of ChristianDevotions.us and the executive editor of ChristianDevotions.us and InspireaFire.com. Cindy is the managing editor for Straight Street Books and SonRise Devotionals, both imprints of Lighthouse Publishing of the Carolinas. She is an award-winning and best-selling author and the director of the Asheville Christian Writers Conference. Visit Cindy at www.cindysproles.com.  @cindydevoted


  1. Wise advice! I needed to hear this today. Thank you, Cindy for sharing your story. I tend to be a "people-pleaser" and bend to the will of others, when I should stay true to myself and what I know.

  2. Yep...work to hone your voice and the craft. Discern what will help. Good luck.

  3. Great article, Cindy.
    My main takeaway: be a trendsetter rather than following trends.

  4. Great wisdom in this message. I pray before I write. I ask God to give me words He would like me to share. :-)

  5. Good. Putting Him first makes a difference.

  6. I certainly needed this, Cindy. I'm writing a Bible study that has a unique format and I've heard that it's too far outside the box more than once. Because it's true to the story I have in my heart, I keep working on it. I need the encouragement to keep going and trust that God will bring it to someone who will be willing to take a chance - in His timing!